When it comes to baby and child sleep, being consistent and giving clear messages is essential.
Babies and children are simple creatures, they have simple needs and they get confused easily.
If your little one is being put down to sleep in multiple locations, if they are being settled using many different techniques and if they are waking to start the day and going to bed at night at all different times, their little bodies and little minds will feel unsure, overwhelmed and completely out of whack.
Consistency is key and your little one will thank you for keeping things simple, the same and familiar, around the clock.
When it comes to consistency, focus on the following areas –
Sleep Space – Sleep your baby or child in the same location for all naps and overnight, when you are at home. Put them down in their own bassinet, cot or bed and avoid letting them sleep all over the house I.e. in your bed, on the couch, in a swing or bouncer. Sleeping them in the one consistent location will help them build a positive association with that space. They will feel safe, comfortable and they will know that when they are put down in their bassinet, cot or bed, they will know it’s time for sleep.
Settling – There are many ways to settle your little one, be it holding, rocking, lying with them, using the shush / pat method or the pick-up / put-down method and there will be times when you may need to use more than one to help calm your baby or child. However, using the one settling method for the most part will give your baby clear, consistent messages when it’s sleep time. If you are continually chopping and changing settling techniques, your baby or child may feel confused and unsure. Using the one technique, for every nap and every bedtime will reassure your them and keep things simple for you too.
Morning Wake-up – We all have a body clock and when we sleep and consistently wake in sync with our internal body clock, we feel our best. It is important that your baby or child wakes to start their day at a similar time each morning, to set their little body clock in sync with “day”. Between 6am to 7am is ideal and for the most part, this is when we are all designed to wake throughout our lives. If your baby or child is waking at all different times, some days before 6am or some days after 7am, they are technically “early rising” or “sleeping in” and this will throw out the rest of their day, and potentially their night.
Bedtime – As with morning wake-up, your baby or child needs to be consistently going to bed at a similar time each night to help set their internal body clock in sync with “night”. Given morning wake up needs to be between 6-7am, a bedtime of 6pm for young babies and toddlers is ideal (with older children going to bed a little later), so they can get their full quote of night sleep. Having a consistent bedtime will mean that every night at that time, your baby or child will feel tired and happily respond to their tiredness by falling to sleep for the night without a fuss.
Routine - Babies and children thrive or structure and routine and having a consistent, familiar pattern of daily activities will help your little one feel safe, comfortable and at ease. When they feel at ease, they are content, and they sleep.